Public School is Not Free

Public school is NOT free.

I first discovered this when I attempted to enroll my daughter in a Pre-K program in the school district where I taught while living in the neighboring county.

“I’m sorry, how much?!” I blurted out while attempting to not spew coffee from my mouth.

“Fifteen thousand two hundred and nine dollars,” the lady calmly stated through the phone.

$15,209. For my daughter to attend a public Pre-K program.

Public school is NOT free.

While the average cost per student in the United States is $12,201 according to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau, states like New York pay $23,091 per student to attend public school.

While parents may not be footing this bill by themselves, it is important to realize that public school does have actual costs for parents and students.

According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF), families are planning to spend $696.70 on back to school supplies alone. Several of these supplies are for “community use” like tissue paper, extra pencils, and glue. Parents are expected to help offset costs for classroom supplies since many districts do not provide them. (This is in addition to the hundreds of dollars that teachers also spend every year on school supplies, but that’s another story for another day.)

Parents are also expected to pay extra for:

  1. Field Trips
  2. Cafeteria Lunches
  3. Class Parties
  4. Teacher Appreciation gifts
  5. Books
  6. Class Fees
  7. Parking Permits
  8. Graduation Cap and Gown
  9. Dances and Prom
  10. Uniforms
  11. Sporting Equipment
  12. Club Fees
  13. Fundraisers
  14. Technology
  15. Agenda Books
  16. Instrument rental fees
  17. Transcript fees
  18. Transportation expenses
  19. Student obligations for damaged/unreturned items
  20. Even your own diploma

Over 12+ years of these seemingly small expenses, they eventually add up.

While public school has many necessary (and unnecessary) additional costs, the most expensive cost of public schools is not material. There are hidden costs that we rarely discuss – ones that most people probably are not even aware of.

Public school costs students (and parents) emotionally, personally, relationally, physically and spiritually. We will explore each of these hidden costs of public school in depth in future posts, but for now, ask yourself: “What has public school cost me?”

If you did not attend public school, consider, “What did my own educational experience cost me?”

No educational system is perfect. Every single system has its pros and cons, but by accurately identifying and fairly evaluating the problems within a system, we are giving ourselves access to be able to explore various solutions.

But maybe, just maybe, by thinking outside the box, we will finally find the freedom to live outside the system and discover the life we were meant to enjoy all along.

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